It has been a few years since I've posted on this blog site! Thought I'd dust off the keyboard and pass on some recommendations.
Before I do, here are some considerations and disclaimers(?).
First: I am a voracious reader. I was raised by readers--so it comes easily for me. For most of our married life Terri and I have not owned a television. We do not subscribe to cable (although my kids did buy me a Fire Stick last year) nor do we get local channels. So, all of this to say that my ability to read a lot is not particularly amazing--it's just what I like doing.
Second: I am ashamed that this year I did not read any poetry anthologies! I love poetry and this disappoints me. While it doesn't quite count, my oldest daughter did give me two books of essays written by the poet Wendell Berry which I cannot wait to devour for 2017!
Third: My list of books read list is not to be mistaken with my list of recommendations. You never really know until you get into the book if it is going to be worth your while! However, just because I don't overtly recommend books doesn't mean the books in my "read" list are not worth reading either! Zahnd, Rohr, McKnight, and Frost are wonderful writers in their own rights!
So here goes.
For novels I recommend the three I actually read in 2016: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz which turned out to be a rather quirky departure from his previous writings--still highly enjoyable. Also for historic fiction Russka by Edward Rutherfurd was enjoyable. However, being one who has a particular affinity for Ukraine, I found his approach a little off-putting (common idea that Ukraine is the offspring of Russia rather than vice-versa). The third novel is a rather campy love story (think Harlequin Romance) along the lines of The Perils of Pauline. The title is Ephesiacus or The Ephesians by Xenophen. Why would I recommend such a book? Well, it was written in the first century (CE/AD) by Xenophen of Ephesus and gives some fantastic background information into the worship of Artemis and first century culture--a huge aide in New Testament studies.*
In relation to Ephesiacus I recommend a monograph written by Dr. Gary Hoag: The teachings on Riches in 1 Timothy in light of Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus. It is a very accessible read--not as difficult as one would think. It originally was Hoag's PhD dissertation. For those of you who are church leaders, Bible teachers, and theological geeks--I think this read is very well worth your time.
For aggressive theological geeks I highly recommend Paul and the Faithfulness of God (both volumes) by N. T. Wright. In fact, I just recommend anything by N. T. Wright. Period. Enough said.
Two of my favorite theological reads this year were The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire by Alan Kreider and Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays. Kreider's book gives some amazing insights into the rise of the church in Roman culture. The insights are not just amazing--but you may find them very surprising. Among some of them were the observations that the number one virtue written about and lauded during this period was patience. Furthermore, evangelism did not figure in any of the writings of the first three centuries (other than the New Testament writings themselves).
Hays' book examines how the four gospels relied heavily upon Old Testament Scriptures--not as proof texts or predictive prophecy but as part of the story that is continued through the life of Jesus. What is most fascinating is how Hays demonstrates quite ably that all four gospels had a "high Christology" (Jesus is the embodiment of the God of Israel) which goes against the grain of some popular NT scholars (i.e., Bart Ehrman).
Other books I highly recommend are Quiet by Susan Cain which will give you a sensitive insight into introverts and their world, The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan which will explain the power of geography in politics and world affairs (known as geopolitics), and for those who are professional presenters: How to Design TED Worthy Presentation Slides by Akash Karia. This last book is filled with practical tips and useful ideas in creating slide presentations.**
I hope these will get you started for 2017. If nothing else, pick up at least one book and read it! Oh, and pick up some poetry and read it. Prose is not enough! Broaden your mind with some good poetry.
Wendell Berry, Wilmer Mills, Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver, and Robert Frost are some of my favorite poets. But there are many others worth reading--and while you're at it look up Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay (not related or married--but they do work together). They are great spoken word poets. On youtube or TED look up An Orign Story by these two (together), If I Should Have A Daughter by Sarah, and Repetition by Phil.
BOOKS READ IN 2016
Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz
Russka by Edward Rutherfurd
Ephesiacus by Xenophen of Ephesus
Culture, Religion, & Psychology:
Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd
Surprise the World! by Michael Frost
Discipleship & Christian Living:
After You Believe by N. T. Wright
Be Not Afraid: Overcoming the Fear of Death by Johann Christoph Arnold
Theology & Biblical Studies:
A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer by Richard Rohr
Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Vol 2 by N. T. Wright
The Lost World of Genesis One by John H. Walton
The teachings on Riches in 1 Timothy in light of Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus by Gary Hoag (Doctoral Dissertation)
The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation by Richard Rohr
The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire by Alan Kreider
Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan
How to Design TED Worthy Presentation Slides by Akash Karia
Social Sciences & Humanities
Quiet by Susan Cain
*Note the novel, Ephesiacus (or The Ephesians) was considered a late second century document since the 1700s. But in the 1990s the opinion of scholarship changed dramatically and now this novel is believed to be the product of the 50s (during the time Paul would have been operating in Ephesus and Asia Minor).
**Too often slide presentations are filled with too much text, too much animations, and too much...too much! I've never heard anyone say: "Hey great presentation! You know though it would have been much better if you included five more slides filled with more statistics and quotes..."